When the Vancouver Canucks give the jerseys off their backs to a number of lucky fans at tomorrow night’s season finale, there will be a couple of prominent names handed out for the last time. Trevor Linden’s sweater will be highly coveted following the contest with the Calgary Flames, and I’d like to think that Markus Naslund’s will be as well.
Despite a drop off in play that has seen him become a bottom six forward, Linden’s legacy remains intact. The main reason is that Linden was always a heart and soul guy and has never been viewed as the most talented player on the roster. His work in the community, his penchant for playing his best hockey at crucial times and his team-first attitude have deservedly earned him the label of Most Popular Canuck of all time.
Though Naslund shares many of those characteristics with Linden, his inability to captain a team past the second round of the playoffs and his $6 million contract have soured many fans on the Swedish winger in recent years. But when rational Vancouverites step back and ingest the entire body of Naslund’s work, they can only conclude that he was one of the most talented players to ever lace ’em up in this city. Naslund is the only Canuck to ever win the Lester B. Pearson Award, given annually to the NHL’s MVP as voted by the players. He has more goals and points than any other player in club history. And he was the most prominent figure in the on-ice turnaround of this franchise following the apathy of the late 90s in this market.
While Naslund has not produced the offensive statistics that should reflect his annual salary in recent years, he has served this community admirably during his tour of duty. He, like Linden, is the type of person you want living in your city long after the final horn has sounded. Both men warrant the gratitude that at least one of them will be shown tomorrow night at the Garage.
• Props to B.C. boy Ryan Dempster for getting the Chicago Cubs off the schneid at Wrigley Field yesterday. The Gibson’s native gave up just one earned run and struck out five in his six innings of work yesterday, becoming the first Cubs’ pitcher to register a win this season. Dempster’s start was his first since May 4, 2005 after spending the past nearly three seasons as the Cubs’ closer.